Justice without lawyers and courts

    James JaffeGoing to court is expensive and time-consuming. Even in the 18th and 19th centuries, people looked for ways to remedy the high costs and delays of formal systems of justice. Arbitration - bringing in a third party to settle disputes without lawyers and courts - arose as an alternative.

    James Jaffe is working to uncover this lost history.

    This fall, supported by a Fulbright award, Jaffe will travel to West Yorkshire in northern England for a six-month research trip. There, at the University of Leeds, Jaffe will examine historical documents from the industrial revolution.

    "West Yorkshire was the center of the cotton industry at that time. Conflicts between employees and employers were just as common as they are today," Jaffe said. "I'll be examining reports from local justices of the peace, legal case studies, and court records to establish what constituted justice and fairness."

    Jaffe's interest in arbitration originally took him to India in 2009. Backed by a $101,000 National Science Foundation grant, Jaffe pored over documents in the Mumbai Archives to learn about an early form of Indian local government called panchayats. Made up of five people, panchayats were tasked with solving disputes among villagers, including property rights, marriage and family issues.

    Indian and English cultures collided during Britain's occupation of India. Part of Jaffe's research will examine what influences this may have had on arbitration and conflict resolution in both countries.

    "I'm looking forward to connecting with scholars whose work focuses on similar topics," Jaffe said. "Public outreach is also a central component of my trip. I'll be talking to local groups interested in labor history and justice."

    Jaffe's research will continue into the spring 2013 semester when he returns to India thanks to a visiting professorial fellowship grant from the Ford Foundation. "I will be conducting research on how Indian independence leaders sought to restore panchayats as the 'true' Indian forum for the resolution of disputes in order to avoid the British court system."

    UW-Whitewater students will benefit from Jaffe's trip as he incorporates this revived knowledge into his classes, including courses like the history of capitalism and colonial India.

    More Fulbright awards

    Justice without lawyers and courts


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